Sarah Cwiek

Sarah Cwiek - Detroit Reporter/Producer

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.

Ways To Connect

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This is a crucial week for the future of the Detroit Public Schools—and possibly holds a key test for Michigan’s emergency manager law, too.

The school district’s third emergency manager, Jack Martin, is expected to leave this week, after serving in that post for 18 months.

Under Michigan’s revised emergency manager law, elected officials—in this case, the Detroit Board of Education—can remove an emergency manager after that period of time by a 2/3 vote. The board has indicated they intend to do just that.

The 2015 VW Golf (left), and the 2015 Ford F-150 (right) at the North American International Auto Show.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Volkwagen Golf was named the North American Car of the Year, beating out the other two competitors nominated for the award – the Ford Mustang, and the Hyundai Genesis.

via shopatnorthland.com

Another major retailer is bowing out of Southfield’s struggling Northland mall.

Macy’s announced this week that it’s shuttering 14 stores nationwide—including the Northland location.

It’s yet another serious blow to Northland: Target also recently announced plans to close its Northland location this year. The mall itself is in receivership.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

While Detroit has now officially exited bankruptcy, a small but dedicated group of city retirees and employees is still fighting the city’s restructuring plan in court.

Judge Steven Rhodes approved the city’s plan of adjustment in November, and that plan went into effect in December.

However, the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association is pursuing an appeal that’s set to be heard in federal court later this year. 

Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area

A massive tree-clearing could start this week at the Bay City State Recreation Area.

The state park has been battling an emerald ash borer infestation for almost four years, and park manager George Lauinger says state and park officials eventually decided it’s best to get rid of the trees in one fell swoop.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit may have wrapped up 2014 with the fewest number of homicides in decades.

The end-of-year crime data is still preliminary.

But Detroit police officials say the official homicide tally for 2014 stands at 300 right now—though several more people were killed in the final week of the year.

Some graffiti found on a Midtown Detroit youth center this week evokes recent incidents of violence and tension between police and civilians--and it's being condemned as inflammatory by both police and community groups.

Tricycle Collective / via Facebook

People living in homes owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority should get a chance to buy them back.

That’s the message from the Tricycle Collective, a group that’s been helping Detroit families facing tax foreclosure.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Wednesday is a crucial deadline for city of Detroit retirees.

It’s the last day to file applications for help from a state-backed income stabilization fund.

That fund is meant to help pensioners pushed into or near poverty by cuts made during the city’s restructuring in bankruptcy.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Ring in the New Year with a bell, not a bang.

That’s the message of a campaign to discourage Detroit’s unofficial tradition of celebratory New Year’s gunfire.

The Reverend Nicholas Hood III has spearheaded the campaign since 1997, when a Detroit woman, Sandra Latham, was killed by a stray gunshot.

There’s no real data on the subject, but Hood says there’s some evidence the campaign has worked.

via DTE Energy

Michigan’s largest utility wants to raise rates next year.

DTE Energy has filed a request with the Michigan Public Service Commission to gather another $370 million a year in revenues from its more than 2 million customers in southeast Michigan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The “snaketivity” scene decorating Michigan’s state capitol this holiday season has raised some eyebrows — and questions about the group behind it.

That group calls itself the Detroit Satanic Temple, and it just formed a few months ago.

Temple director Jex Blackmore says the display is meant to promote Satanic practices and beliefs, but those aren’t what many people think.

The Detroit Public Schools has laid out new plans to erase its red ink.

The district’s revised deficit elimination plan still awaits state approval. But if approved, it would result in a small surplus by 2023, says district spokesman Steve Wasko.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s already proving to be an intense flu season at many Michigan hospitals.

“It’s been a very heavy season so far. We’ve had about four times the normal number of flu cases as we had at this time in previous years,” says Dr. Matthew Sims, director of infectious disease research at Beaumont hospitals.

Other hospitals in the region are reporting a similar spike.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit retirees face some big cuts in 2015—and hundreds of them packed two area churches to hear more about it Wednesday.

Detroit’s non-uniform retirees will take 4.5% direct pension cuts as a result of the city’s bankruptcy restructuring plan, which took effect Dec. 10.

user MoBikeFed / flickr

Criminal incidents are on the decline in the Detroit Public Schools, according to new data from school officials.

“Serious incidents” such as assault and weapons possession dropped from 456 in the first three months of last school year, to 343 during the same time frame this year—a nearly 25% decline.

“It’s a larger ongoing trend,” said DPS police chief Stacy Brackens. “We’ve had a downward trend since 2010.”

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In Detroit, city leaders are debating the best way to make sure the city’s neighborhoods see real gains from new development.

One proposal: a city ordinance that would require some big new projects include so-called “community benefits agreements.”

But the idea has some people worried, and has generated pushback in Detroit and beyond.


Skillman Foundation

Locally-generated solutions should drive any effort to fix Detroit schools.

That’s the message coming from the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, a group that formed just this week.

It’s an unusually broad group that includes community, business, union, and education leaders working in the city.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A new umbrella group says Michigan’s leaders need to hear their concerns about fairness in law enforcement.

The Coalition for Justice and Fairness to Reform Law Enforcement has come up with a list of priorities it wants state and local officials to address, members announced in Detroit Tuesday.

via gophouse.org

A new House bill would prevent local governments from setting their own minimum wage laws, putting other additional conditions on employers, or attaching community benefits agreements to development projects.

State Representative Earl Poleski, a Jackson Republican, is the bill’s sponsor. He says it aims to combat the “fragmentation” that results from letting municipalities set their own standards.  

“Those different rules make it complex—and when I say complex, read ‘expensive’—to comply, and frankly impairs businesses abilities to expand and hire people,” Poleski says.

Sharon Drummond / flickr

Two reports out this week show Michigan as a stark outlier when it comes to charter schools.

One, from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, shows that 55% of Detroit public school students are now enrolled in charters—up from 51% just a year ago.

That’s the second-highest percentage of any city after New Orleans. 

Wikipedia

State lawmakers are considering bills in this “lame duck” session that would provide one-time relief for property owners facing tax foreclosure in the coming year.

The situation is particularly dire in Wayne County, where the County treasurer has already served foreclosure notices on about 75,000 tax-delinquent properties—about 62,000 in Detroit alone. 

Terry L. Atwell / Air National Guard

Michigan Senator Carl Levin says a new military spending bill could bring some big wins for the state’s defense sector.

Levin, a Democrat and Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has a big hand in crafting the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

Update 7:25 pm

100% of Detroit's public lighting grid was up and running as of Tuesday evening, city officials said, while noting Public Lighting Department crews were still dealing with a handful of "localized issues."

All PLD customers lost power this morning, after a "major cable failure" at the Mistursky power station. When crews tried to reconnect part of the system through another circuit, a breaker failed, triggering a system-wide shutdown around 10:30 am.

The PLD grid is being phased out over four years, and is currently serviced by DTE Energy. DTE is in the process of building a replacement grid, but is still using the old infrastructure to serve most PLD customers in the meantime. Those customers include some of the city's largest institutions--such as the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, a number of courts, many Detroit Public Schools, and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

At an afternoon press conference, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the outage is "another reminder of how much work we have to do to rebuild this city."

“A bankruptcy order doesn’t solve the decades of neglect in our infrastructure, and that’s what we saw," said Duggan.

“Every month that goes by, we will be more and more on a more modern system, and the likelihood of this happening will go down. But it’s part of rebuilding the city.”

DTE Electric President Jerry Norcia said the company is in the process of inspecting the current system and making needed upgrades, but had been focusing on known weak points. 

"This was a station that had not failed before," said Norcia, who said the exact cause of the cable failure isn't known yet.

The city's police and fire stations also lost power, but the 911 dispatch system and other communications were up and running throughout. That was fortunate, as some trauma patients had to be re-routed from Detroit's Receiving Hospital, and firefighters rescued people stranded on the top floors of a few downtown buildings.

Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins said emergency personnel kept things operating with only a few minor adjustments. “They received instructions to move their vehicles outside the quarters, so we were able to respond to every call for help around this city," he said.

The Detroit Public Schools and Wayne State University canceled afternoon classes due to the outage.

Update 12:19 p.m.

Here's a statement from the Detroit Public Lighting Department:

The city’s public lighting grid suffered a major cable failure that has caused the entire grid to lose power at approximately 10:30 this morning.   The outage is affecting all customers on the PLD grid.  We have isolated the issue and are working to restore power as soon as possible.

The city’s Public Lighting Department is working closely with DTE during this process.  Mayor Mike Duggan and representatives of DTE will provide further details a 2PM press briefing at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.

11:26 a.m.

A power outage affecting parts of Detroit closed several government buildings, including some courthouses, and left intersections without working traffic lights.

The outage happened about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Sean MacEntee / creative commons

Federal law enforcement agencies are warning online shoppers to be on the lookout for potential scams this “Cyber Monday” and beyond.

The Monday after Thanksgiving has become the busiest online shopping day of the year for American consumers.

And the FBI says it’s noticed a significant uptick in fraud schemes that start then, and last through the holiday season.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Immigration activists worry that President Obama’s recent executive order could bring scammers out of the shadows.

The new program could let up to five million currently undocumented people gain at least temporary legal status in the US.

For immigrant advocates, the concern is unscrupulous people peddling bad or even phony “help” with the application process.

creative commons

Does a stretch of unseasonable warmth do much to influence people’s views on climate change?

One recent study suggests the answer is: No.

This study looked at two big data points. One was weather data for the winter of 2012, an unusually warm one across most of the country—and the 4th-warmest on record for the contiguous US as a whole.

The Parade Company / via city of Detroit

Things might be a little tighter than usual at Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade this year.

The parade will take its usual route down Woodward Avenue. But there will be several “pinch points” due to ongoing construction for the M-1 rail project.

City spokesman John Roach says that means parade-watching will be restricted in some areas.

Dennis Allain Renderings

The Detroit City Council has postponed a key vote for the city’s new hockey arena.

Developer Olympia Entertainment asked Council to delay re-zoning for the new Detroit Red Wings arena, slated to open in 2017. Olympia is the development arm of businesses run by the Ilitch family, owners of the Red Wings.

Wayne County plans to foreclose on a record number of properties next year.

The county has begun issuing notices to almost 75,000 properties for delinquent taxes. Of those, more than 80%--about 62,000—are located in Detroit.

The county is required, by state law, to auction off all properties at least three years behind on property taxes.

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